Capitol Records’ U.S. version of The Beatles’ “Rarities” collection turned 43 years old on March 24, 2023. The Hollywood-based label, then owned by London-based EMI, released the album the same day in March 1980.
EMI’s Parlophone label had included its “Rarities” compilation, produced by Mike Heatley, in the U.K. as a bonus disc in “The Beatles Collection” box set released on December 2, 1978. By popular demand, EMI issued “Rarities” as a stand-alone single LP on October 12, 1979.
That prompted Capitol to follow suit with plans to release it in the States and other Capitol-EMI territories including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.
But while many of those 17 tracks were rarities to U.K. fans – among them non-album singles – most were not that rare to U.S. fans, mainly due to Capitol’s manipulation of album tracks lists and inclusion of non-album U.K. singles right up to and including 1966’s “Revolver” LP on August 5.
In this excellent 18-minute video posted on YouTube in February 2022, “The Beatles Rarities – USA vs UK Albums – Worth Revisiting Today?,” Austria-based Beatles forensics expert Andrew Milton of Parlogram Auctions traces the histories of both the U.K. and U.S. editions of “Rarities” in great detail.
Milton’s (and/or his team’s) meticulous research methodically and accurately sorts out exactly what’s the same and what’s different about each track on each album, down to matrix numbers and pressing plants.
His conclusion as to which of the two albums is worth revisiting today is spot-on.
0:00 – Opener & titles 0:59 – Finding Beatles rarities in 1978. 1:50 – The Beatles Collection ‘BC13’ box set. 2:26 – Compiling ‘Rarities’. 3:07 – PSLP 261 box set issue. 3:24 – PCM 1002 retail issue. 4:18 – UK ‘Rarities’ track breakdown. 7:19 – 1980’s German pressing surprise. 7:57 – Capitol takes over. 8:16 – Capitol’s ‘Rarities’ promo LP (SPRO 8969) 9:25 – Capitol goes back to the drawing board. chart performance. 15:31 – Comparing the two versions. 15:52 – Sound quality. 16:31 – German DMM ‘Rain’. 17:15 – A NEW ‘Rarities’ album? 17:51 – Sign off.
Capitol’s Beatles ‘Rarities’: Behind the Scenes at the Tower
To add to the U.S. “Rarities” backstory Milton presents, at the time, in late 1979-early 1980, Randall Davis, who produced the U.S. compilation, was Capitol’s merchandising and advertising director, based at the Capitol Tower on Vine Street in Hollywood.
We’d worked together for a couple of years in the Press & Artist Relations on the Tower’s 9th Floor before he moved down the hall to M&A. When he did, I moved up into his old gig as P&AR’s editorial manager, responsible for writing all the artist bios, press releases to the music trades, and assorted in-house marketing copy.
Davis and I were the young twenty-something in-house Beatlemaniacs and underwhelmed when we found out Capitol set plans in motion to release the U.K. “Rarities” tracklist in the States as a green-label budget title in October 1979.
We were further dismayed when the label pressed a small quantity of those (SN-12009, which was quickly canceled), as well as 3,000 purple-label promos (SPRO-8969).
Worse, both pressings inexplicably substituted the German-language versions of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You” with the English-language versions.
For an album titled “Rarities,” Davis and I thought that was beyond insane. So did every other Beatles fan, record collector, and music journalist we spoke with.
Reinventing ‘Rarities’ for U.S. Beatle People
Davis and others on our team passionately warned Capitol’s A&R and marketing execs that releasing the U.K. track list would be a huge insult to U.S. fans, further damaging what little credibility the label still had with Beatles compilations, and cripple sales.
Reason prevailed, and Davis got the green light to compile and produce an all-new album featuring tracks that would be different and less familiar to fans in the States and Capitol-EMI’s other territories. Capitol set a late March 1980 release date.
Davis worked on choosing the tracks with music archivist/researcher and longtime Beatles collector Ron Furmanek (who’d later produce the Capitol Collectors Series of archival compilations) and author Wally Podrazik (co-author of the then-definitive Beatles discography “All Together Now”). Davis also researched and wrote the liner notes.
I don’t recall who came up with the idea of creating a couple of “new” rarities with new edits of “I Am the Walrus” and “Penny Lane,” but those were executed flawlessly by legendary Capitol producer/engineer John Palladino (aka “Mr. Snips”) and staff engineer George Irwin.
U.S. ‘Rarities’ Gets a Gatefold Cover
Everyone involved wanted Capitol’s “Rarities” cover to be classier than EMI’s type-on-plain blue background, so we got the OK for a 12″x12″ gatefold.
My role on the project was to choose all the photos for the package’s inner panels and both sides of the LP sleeve. It was a dream assignment for a first-generation American Beatlemaniac who, as a 12-year-old seventh-grader in North Miami, Florida, had watched with great excitement as John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr made their U.S. live-TV debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on Sunday night, February 9, 1964. It was a life-changing event for me among 72 million other mostly young viewers.
My P&AR office was a few doors down from Capitol’s Art Department headed by the esteemed Roy Kohara. Both our 9th Floor offices overlooked the backstage door of the storied Pantages Theatre half a block south on Hollywood Boulevard.
Outside Kohara’s door stood a group of four-drawer legal-sized filing cabinets full of artist- and project-related photos. One of the cabinets was devoted just to The Beatles, stuffed with slides, 35mm negs, proof sheets, etc. going back to late 1963. It was kept locked for obvious reasons. But God knows what treasures had been pilfered over the years.
Kohara’s ace Henry Marquez got the assignment to design the “Rarities” gatefold package. A Polaroid by photographer Rick Wolen-Semple was chosen for the cover because it looked like a rare, vintage image of the band.
After Kohara gave me the key to the Holy Grail, er, Beatles photo archive, I went through all four drawers, picked out photos I thought told the story but hadn’t been over-published, and delivered them to Henry. Of course, I was deliberately thorough.
Butcher Gets the Axe…Again
The highlight of my hours of spelunking through the Fab Four photo archive was finding a 35mm slide of the original butcher photo from The Beatles’ photo session with Robert Whitaker that March 25 that appeared on the cover of Capitol’s “Yesterday… And Today” album, released, recalled, and re-released with Whitaker’s “trunk” cover shot in June 1966. (No, I didn’t steal anything from the archive, but confess I had an extra 11×14 print made from the slide for my personal archive.)
Davis and I were elated at the find. However, when we boldly suggested the butcher shot be the “Rarities” cover instead of the poorly lit Polaroid, Rupert Perry (Capitol’s A&R chief) and Dennis White (the label’s sales chief) indeed said ixnay, as Andrew notes in his Parlogram Auctions video – although my recollection is that White was the most adamantly opposed.
This is 1980, not 1966, we countered. Aren’t we past all that?
No, they insisted – Sears and the other big accounts would still complain about the bloody mess.
Bowed but undaunted, Davis and I then lobbied hard for the butcher image to be printed inside left in the gatefold. Fortunately, we won that battle as well…if not at first.
Capitol released its “Rarities” album on March 28, 1980 – with a sticker on the cover hyping the butcher cover photo inside. Every day for the next few months, I jumped down the Tower’s inner stairway to the 8th Floor sales department to check out the big master daily sales printout, tracking the numbers. (I had done this with Paul McCartney and Bob Seger and Steve Miller records, to know precisely when to send out the “Xxxxx Scores Gold” press release to the music trades.)
On Capitol’s first “Rarities” pressing, the back cover was missing a producer credit for George Martin, and the liner notes incorrectly attributed Ringo’s post-“Helter Skelter” howl about “blisters on me fingers” to Lennon. Further, the gatefold’s inside left panel image was a crop of the butcher shot, though not as tight as the cropped image on the original “Yesterday… And Today” cover. We had asked for the full-frame image.
A second pressing of the album provided the opportunity to re-do the cover to add Martin’s credit and correct the “blisters” reference, and we also asked that the butcher slide be printed full-frame this time, making visible the set of teeth on the floor.
‘Rarities’ Scores Gold Almost 17 Years Later
“I thought ‘Rarities’ was quite good,” Paul McCartney told writer Paul Gambaccini in a story about “McCartney II” published by Rolling Stone on June 28, 1980. “I haven’t heard Beatles stuff for a while except on radio – I haven’t even got a full collection – and I thought it was quite nice.”
Sales of Capitol’s “Rarities” in the U.S. hovered in the 450K range after its release but hadn’t passed the 500K mark by that July when I ankled Capitol to join Elektra/Asylum’s Media Relations crew as editorial director. After that, of course, I had no access to Capitol’s sales readouts.
While the U.K. “Rarities” climbed to No. 71 there and earned Silver for sales of more than 60K, the U.S. version ultimately fared better. It peaked at No. 21 on Billboard’s Top 200, No. 26 in Canada on RPM’s Top Albums/CDs chart (and scored gold certification for sales north of 50K), No. 27 in Australia per the Kent Music Report, and No. 43 in New Zealand on RMNZ.
Almost 17 years after its release, the U.S. “Rarities” album finally earned RIAA gold certification for U.S. sales exceeding 500K on January 16, 1997.
Neither collection has been officially released on CD.
“Rarities” remains the only Beatles record on which this writer has a credit.
Stephen K. Peeples is a Grammy-nominated multi-media writer-producer and award-winning radio/record-industry veteran raised in Miami and Los Angeles by career newspaper journalists and music lovers. Based in Santa Clarita, California, he wrapped a 45-year media career in 2021, and as of early 2023, is co-authoring a new book with artist and pop-culture legend John Van Hamersveld commemorating the 60th anniversary in 2023-2024 of Hammer’s iconic poster for Bruce Brown’s epic surf movie “The Endless Summer.” Peeples is also conspiring with Cindy Johnson and Jeri Jenkins, founders of Home at Last, the Miami-based mansions-and-maids concierge service for rock stars recording at Criteria and Bayshore Studios in the 1970s and early ’80s, on researching and writing the dynamic duo’s memoir. And he is developing an art book/biography, “Boyd Elder, Artlaw: The Greatest Artist You’ve Never Heard Of,” about the artist who created the skull art for three classic albums by the rock group Eagles and much more (due in 2024-25). See the “Stephen K. Peeples” page on his website. More original stories and exclusive interviews are posted there and on his YouTube channel.
Article: U.S. Beatles ‘Rarities’ Album: Behind the Scenes at Capitol
Category: News and Reviews
Author: Stephen K. Peeples
Article Source: stephenkpeeples.com